Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a remarkable and inventive action film that takes familiar themes and explores them in original ways as a political thriller and an apocalyptic way. In a year full of very good action movie sequels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to hold up against the others and the original Rise of the Planet of the Apes by being not only a power struggle between the two societies and best of all, being unpredictable. This is clearly not an action film; it is a tense, emotional journey that gives audiences a grey morality and three dimensional characters.
The dynamic of duality in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of its major advantages. While the story could have easily gone down in a predictable route (humans are evil and greedy throughout), Director Matt Reeves cleverly shows the “humanity” of both sides and never gives the audience a clear cut hero or villain. Both the humans and apes are compared through their societies, and most importantly family, specifically the dynamic between fathers and sons (similar to The Place Beyond the Pines). This is specifically powerful as we see the chemistry between Andy Serkis and Jason Clarke.
Andy Serkis has always been a powerful force in Hollywood through his motion capture work, giving a powerful and subtle performance that ranks as his finest work yet as the character of Caesar is given room to grow as his strengths and weaknesses are revealed. Jason Clarke is also given an equally laired and deep performance as he and Caesar begin to accept one another and come to the same conclusion- our societies are not very different. Gary Oldman also is given a brief role as one of the most relatable antagonists in recent memory. As usual he is excellent (albeit a bit underused) and is given one scene in particular in which he is able to be particularly where he shows a vulnerable, emotional side. This is the genius of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: there are no heroes or villains, but rather characters that all are given motive and flaws. This adds realism to the film unseen in many films in general.
The special effects, outside of a few tacky shots in the beginning, are breathtaking. All the ape characters are beautifully realized and given an incredible realism through facial expressions, body language, and unique methods of communication. The score by Michael Giacchino is also utilized wonderfully, especially in the film’s touching ending scene. There is also great scene structure and a compelling narrative that allows the film to be constantly entertaining and immersive. The film’s editing is more of a brewing, tension filled thriller than a thrill-a-minute action ride. While the film’s flaws include a few logic errors, they are forgivable due to its engaging storytelling.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a both a great film and an entertaining movie. It’s a beautiful, emotional, and thoroughly entertaining film that ranks amongst this film’s best summer blockbusters. The heart of the story, depth of the characters, and strength of the metaphors make the film a great sequel and film in general. Grade: -A